Catholic groups sue over federal contraception mandate
The American Catholic bishops voiced support for the lawsuits filed Monday.
May 21st, 2012
01:03 PM ET

Catholic groups sue over federal contraception mandate

By Alan Duke, CNN

(CNN) - The University of Notre Dame and "a diverse group of plaintiffs" filed lawsuits Monday challenging the federal mandate that religious employers offer health insurance that includes coverage of contraceptives and birth control services, Notre Dame spokeswoman Shannon Chapla said.

The Notre Dame suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Northern Indiana, is one of a dozen filed Monday by 43 separate Catholic institutions in different federal courts around the United States, Chapla said.

The lawsuits are efforts to "vindicate the country's constitutional and traditional commitments to religious freedom and pluralism," Notre Dame law professor Richard W. Garnett said in a university statement.

The Catholic Church teaches that use of contraception is morally wrong.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuits Monday.

The Obama administration, in an attempt at a compromise, revised the rule to require health insurance companies - not employers - to provide contraception coverage, mollifying some Catholic critics. Other Catholic groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are not satisfied by the revised rule.

The suits contend that the regulations violate of the First Amendment guarantee of religious liberty, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other federal laws.

"This filing is about the freedom of a religious organization to live its mission, and its significance goes well beyond any debate about contraceptives," Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins said in a message to his school. "For if we concede that the government can decide which religious organizations are sufficiently religious to be awarded the freedom to follow the principles that define their mission, then we have begun to walk down a path that ultimately leads to the undermining of those institutions."

The Archdiocese of Washington joined in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday. The plaintiffs also include Archbishop Carroll High School; Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington; the Consortium of Catholic Academies of the Archdiocese of Washington; and The Catholic University of America.

"There is no way out of the dilemma the mandate forces upon us," Washington Archdiocese Chancellor Jane Belford said. "Catholic schools, universities, hospitals and social service ministries employ and serve millions of people in this country and do so without regard to their religious beliefs. Under the government's new rules, religious organizations will face an impossible choice."

–CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Health care • Politics

soundoff (556 Responses)
  1. Greg

    This country was built and formed on the principles given to us by Christian beliefs and morals. They made this country into a great country with a mostly united society. But of course there were always those that don't want rules or want to instead change the rules...that why the pilgrims came to this land. I am by no means hinting maybe people with beliefs that contradict those that built this nation should leave this land and do the same, but I think this nation might some day be ruled with "I do what I want, when I want, to who I want because I have the right to decide without consequences" ideology. The society that first inhabited this country were not perfect by any means...they were bound as a people with the goal to live the values our God gave us recorded in the Bible (similar to those history books I studies in schools that outlined the events that occured around the globe). So we keep to those same goals in our own imperfect way just like those that don not agree we should hold on to those values and morals that made this county a Blessed nation.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • just sayin


      Sorry but we are a nation of Christians..not a Christian Nation. Your "Jesus" has no bearing on our laws.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • paulronco

      >> This country was built and formed on the principles given to us by Christian beliefs and morals.

      Actually, this country was built and formed on the principles given to us by the Magna Carta

      May 21, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  2. Marie

    If you want certain insurance coverage, for example, birth control and you cannot get that paid for by your insurance company then you can get it elsewhere or even (shock!) pay for it yourself! We don't need a law, making insurance companies or our employer pay for it. Let's get real, there are a lot of other things that we would like to be paid for and can't get.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      You are forgetting that contraceptives aren't just used for birth control. They also help fight against serious health and hormone problems for women.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • Floretta

      And – shock! – not everybody can afford it, either.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:39 am |
  3. Denise

    Look at the article picture of the old men in their dresses. Some of them even have silly pink caps on.

    Foolish old men. The emporer has no clothes; their flock is diminishing, their empire is crumbling, and there's no god.

    May 21, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
    • Denise


      May 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • John

      Christians are the largest religion in the world... and if you claim there is no God, I recommend you google : Fatimah, Incorruptibles and Lanciano.

      May 21, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  4. JohnQuest

    This is Stupid, the Law does not require them to pay for anything they object to, the Law requires Insurance companies to provided this coverage.

    Are they upset that the Insurance companies provide it?

    May 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • Marie

      Why have a law at all?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Marie, To ensure that the service is provided to those (even Catholics) that want to use it.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • justinstl

      The church has no business in saying what its providers can pay for ...next thing they wont want to cover cancer treatment because it is Gods will that when its your time its your time. The church needs to either mind their business or if it wants say in laws they should pay taxes!
      Its not about morals...its about money!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • John Carroll

      Catholics are upset because they are being forced by the Federal Government to Immediately Materially Cooperate with Evil. By being forced to contract with an Insurance provider that pays for morally objectionabe pills and procedures, the Church is losing its ability to live morally. For example, if you hire a bartender for your alcohol free wedding and explaing that you strongly believe alcahol is evil, and they take your money and then set up an additional aclohol bar just outside your wedding, the people at the wedding feast may get drunk and spoil your wedding. Was it right for the bartender to determine that your stance on having an alcohol free wedding was depriving your guests of alcholol, even if it is served just outside of the wedding?

      May 22, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      Yeah JohnC but the church has no problem covering up and helping pedophiles.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:36 am |
  5. Marie

    No matter what your religion or beliefs, the Catholic Church is correct in filing these lawsuits. It all boils down to how much you allow the government to get into your personal choices. If no one takes a stand we will lose our individual rights and have to do what the government decides is right for us.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Marie, where in the Law does it require the Church or church schools to pay for this service?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Bert0529

      You have this backwards. The services being subsidized are valid medical services. The objections to the services are religious, not medical. If people were allowed to selectively withhold taxes based on their religious views then I would abstain from giving any of my tax dollars to subsidize churches' tax exemptions. I don't want to pay for civic services for churches that I feel are teaching bigotry and hatred. That violates MY rights according to your assertion. If it's ok that my tax dollars go to support churches than your tax dollars should go to support people's medical needs- whether either of us agrees with it or not. Trust me, I'd gladly divert my dollars to Planned Parenthood and away from churches and let your dollars support religious pursuits and not contraception. If our tax bills came with questionnaires about how we want our money spent I'd be delighted.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • mcskadittle

      you mean like being gay and wanting to get married?

      May 21, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • paulronco

      >> If no one takes a stand we will lose our individual rights and have to do what the government decides is right for us.

      Well, that's better than having to do what Verizon decides is right for us, because unlike Verizon, the government is run by you and me. At least, that's how it works in a functional democracy. Which, of course, the United States no longer is.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Floretta

      ...but you have no problem with a church (any denomination) getting into your personal business, even if you do not subscribe to said church? Yowza! Here's an idea – single payer health insurance, separated from employment.

      May 22, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  6. Ethics Board

    They can have an opinion when they pay taxes

    May 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm |
    • justinstl


      May 21, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • paulronco

      I guess Verizon can't have an opinion then. Hasn't paid a cent in taxes in two years.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  7. Spectator

    I would be far more worried when the day comes that birth control becomes mandatory to use. With world population trend, it can't be far off.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • paulronco

      In America at least, people are already having fewer children. All mammals have an innate sense when the environment is too dangerous to introduce children to.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  8. Bert0529

    I'd like to sue the government as well. My tax dollars are routinely distributed to groups that engage in abhorrent behavior. Churches. Via my property taxes I'm stuck paying for police and fire and other civic services for the local churches. They teach bigotry and intolerance with great pride. This offends my belief system. I'd love to pick and choose who can and can't receive the benefits provide by my tax dollars. Where's my class action suit?

    May 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • Wiley Thruster

      I too would like to have say over where my tax dollars go. I would say no to "green jobs" scams, government provided cell phones, 99 weeks of unemployment, foreign aid, and all the rest of the trappings of Big Government.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • paulronco

      Unfortunately, Wiley, we'd still all be broke. (You forgot the three-trillion-dollar wars of aggression, you see)

      May 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  9. Reality

    Some nitty-gritty:

    "Twenty-one states offer exemptions from contraceptive coverage, usually for religious reasons, for insurers or employers in their policies: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (administrative rule), Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and West Virginia."



    The Catholic hierachy do not believe in artificial birth control so why do they employ those who do? Did not the Supreme Court recently decide that religious organizations have the right to decide who they hire and fire? Bottom line: To reduce health insurance costs and to not be subject to Obama care regulations about supplying contraceptives, Catholic groups should simply not hire those who want contraceptives and fire those who demand such coverage.


    Condoms are available over the counter. Make the Pill (type dependent on prior doctor's evaluation as to hormone level, etc.) available over the counter and there will be no more debate. Planned Parenthood can offer deep discounts for those who say they cannot afford said protection.

    Or better yet, put a pack of condoms in cereal boxes.(and maybe Pills?) Unfortunately, that would not ensure the condoms and/or Pills would be used. Based on Guttmacher Insti-tute data, said condoms and/or Pills are currently not being used as they should. (one million abortions/yr and 19 million cases of S-TDs/yr because either the daily Pill was not taken or a condom stayed in the pocket.)

    Condom-fitted briefs for men?? Hmmm? 🙂

    The door is open for other ideas!!!

    May 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Wiley Thruster

      The State exemptions are in response to State insurance laws. Obama's plan is a blanket Federal plan that forces the Church to aid and abet in the commission of an act, that in the tenets of the faith, is a sin.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • paulronco

      >> Obama's plan is a blanket Federal plan that forces the Church to aid and abet in the commission of an act, that in the tenets of the faith, is a sin.

      Nothing new there, Lincoln did the same thing when he emancipated the Slaves. The church at the time believed that slave ownership was a right, and they pointed to the Bible as support for their case.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  10. bob

    I had to look for this story. Not important to CNN. Bias.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  11. Mormon magical underwear

    Catholics should be more worried about their members voting for a cultist Bishop ROmney

    May 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Wiley Thruster

      How are things over at Obama Reelection Religious Defamation HQ? Have you guys gathered your daily quota of good throwing rocks already?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      "How are things over at Obama Reelection Religious Defamation HQ? Have you guys gathered your daily quota of good throwing rocks already?"

      you obviously do not frequent this blog....the religious throw just as many rocks as the non-religious

      May 21, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • demrules

      They should really be filing lawsuits against all of those priests who have molested children in the past. They still haven't figured out that this is the United States of America and not the "Catholic States of America"! Drop the FEDERAL non-profit status and maybe the government will get out of your business. Can't have it both ways!

      May 21, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Dave

      I'm not sure why the garment issue is a big deal. Many religions have special clothing their members wear. Mormons follow the scriptures in Ex 28:2; Lev 6:10; Isa 61:10; Dan 7:9.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
  12. Obvious Guy

    It's a good thing our legal system cares so little about morals

    May 21, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • justinstl

      Why should it care about any morals morals are different for each individual. morals are personal preferences...The church needs to see this! If it morally disagrees with it they have the option to NOT HAVE employees....fire them and make them work for you on volunteer basis! The church needs to stop assuming that everyone believes in their God ...and should accept the fact that each and every person has their own God or idea of God! you do not see any other church's complaining of this! only the catholic church....the most evil empire ever! They are the first to condemn other religions they think their way is the only way! If they want say on any government issues then they should pay taxes. Stick Your morals in your own dark closeted mind and leave them there! DONT PUSH MORALS ON THE PEOPLE!

      May 21, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  13. mc tampa

    Very simple fix, notify all job applicants at the point of application that you choose to not provide some basic health care services all in the name of religion. This way qualified applicants can turn around and go to employers living in the 21st century! Then you will have the old men working for you who set the rest of the out date catholic doctrine.

    signed an enlightened caltholic

    May 21, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • kjrussell

      Some drugs can be prescribed for different reasons. Hormones are on that list.
      Does the Employer get to see all employee medical records and decide if a medication is acceptable for an employee to take?

      May 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  14. tnfreethinker

    Religious freedom is still firmly intact. As religious freedom is an individual right, each individual can choose NOT to take birth control. When all these Catholic churches lose, they should have to pay the taxpayers back for any money spent on defending this CONST.ITUTIONAL mandate. Businesses (including churches) are not people, and do not have the Const.itutional rights of people.

    May 21, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Wiley Thruster

      You've missed the point on religious freedom completely. The Church as one of it tenets teaches that birth control is a sin. You are free as a Catholic to choose for yourself wether to sin or not. It is not the role of government to force the Church to aid and abet in the commission of that sin by providing the services.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
      • tnfreethinker

        No Wiley, you missed the point. Individual freedom-the only one guaranteed by the Const.itution-does not apply to the church. I can't wait for this to reach the SCOTUS.

        May 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Dave

      I agree with the Catholic church. They should not be forced to act against their conscience.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
      • tnfreethinker

        Then I suggest they make sure to employ people who agree with them, otherwise, they will operate under the Const.itutional laws of the US, and will provide insurance coverage for their employees who choose to use birth control.

        May 21, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • paulronco

      >> You are free as a Catholic to choose for yourself wether to sin or not.

      To a point. When the overwhelming body of science states that contraception is a valid health service, then you should only be allowed to obstruct so much. To quote a pithy phrase so often trotted out by the right: "If you don't like our laws here in American, then you are free to leave."

      May 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      tnfreethinker – your name suggest that you are a free thinker but in fact you are a statist and want all churches to conform to the state. That is exactly what the founders were trying to protect us from. A true free thinker would recognize that churches are people and cannot exist otherwise. The fact that these churches also own hospitals, clinics, soup kitchens, nursing homes, etc. causes them to be employers as well as to minister to others as part of their mission of social justice. Free thinkers don't want to limit freedoms but want to expand those rights to as many as possible. Change your name perhaps or live up to it.

      May 21, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
      • tnfreethinker

        SPA...churches are not people. Churches are religious organizations that have no rights under American law. The right to religious freedom ONLY applies to individuals, not churches. And the founders were trying to protect us from the church getting in government. Not the other way around. This is well-established law, thanks to the many SCOTUS cases. Your opinion of a freethinker holds no weight if you are a believer. Believers are not capable of free thought, nor can they even understand it, as you have demonstrated.

        May 21, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • SPA Knight

      tnfreethinker – You state "Your opinion of a freethinker holds no weight if you are a believer" but call yourself a freethinker while closed to opinion of others strctly on the basis of their belief.

      Then you state ' And the founders were trying to protect us from the church getting in government. Not the other way around" The fact is it was exactly the other way around. Pwerhaps you missed that in your study of US History or the great public school system failed us. Freedom of religion is to protect religion from government takeover or abolishment so we don't end up like countries who have Sharia Law or China where the church needs to operate underground in fear of persecution. Religion is a threat to forms of government that want to oppress their citizens because to acknowledge that individual rights are given by God and not government undermines their power over the individual. That is exacltly what makes the US unique to the rest of the world.

      May 25, 2012 at 11:30 am |
      • tnfreethinker

        You are so completely wrong. Keeping religion out of our gov't is the only way to protect religious freedom. And religion is a threat to forms of government because it allows oppression of it's citizens. Your school system failed you because separation of church and state is meant to keep religion out of gov't as a way to protect religious freedom. And individual rights are given by gov't because there is no god. My free thinking mind discovered this years ago, through tons of research and reading the Bible. Have you ever read the Bible in its entirety? Since you admit you are a believer, you either have not read the Bible or you are not very smart.

        May 25, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
  15. free druid

    Proud to be an ex-Catholic!

    May 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
  16. Karen

    The Catholic Church should not be allowed to trample of the rights of one for its own rights. Catholic women still have a conscience and a choice to use birth control or not and are accountable to God for their own individual choice. Employers (the Catholic Church included) should not be allowed to deny healthcare medications to its workers. Where does this stop if another religious employer does not believe in blood transfusions should its insurance company be able to deny coverage of this to save a life..? I think not, and where does it stop. Talk about a slippery slope.

    There are two rights here that are linked and cannot be separated… Women’s rights to family planning if working for a Catholic University, Hospital, or Social Services Agency VS the Church’s Rights. The Catholic Church as a Church already has been given a exclusion although in the Catholic Church as a member we never here this.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Wiley Thruster

      Catholic Women and Catholic's in general have the freedom to sin as much as anyone else. What the government is attempting to do is force the Church to aid and abet in the commission of an act it teaches is a sin and morally wrong. That is infringement on Freedom of Religion.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • tnfreethinker

      Wiley....it is not infringement of Freedom of Religion. Freedom of Religion is an individual freedom, guaranteed only to individual persons....not organizations (profit or non).

      May 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  17. Alien Orifice

    One can only hope that Catholics can see what is happening here and leave the church in droves. I would love to see the RCC legislate itself into irrelevance.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • gerald

      Those who don't stand for something stand for nothing. I hope those who don't stand with the Church on this do leave. The Church will be much stronger without them.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • kjrussell

      Okay, let me make a few comments I think we can all agree on:
      1) The Catholic priests didn't stop having 'relations' with children until they got caught too many times to keep covering it up. 2) the RCC wasn't/isn't moral enough to stop this from happening even though they knew of thousands of victoms in this country alone.
      3) People made excuses, denied it was thier priest, and other BS to still feel good about thier faith.

      And now, you think anyone will leave the church over birth control?

      May 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      "Those who don't stand for something stand for nothing. I hope those who don't stand with the Church on this do leave. The Church will be much stronger without them."

      And just because you stand for something doesn't mean that something you stand for is the right thing to do.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • Jacques Strappe, World Famous French Ball Juggler

      So that means gerald is standing with the Catholic church on their handling of the child abuse. So at least we know where he sits on matters!

      May 22, 2012 at 10:46 am |
  18. BRC

    "Under the government's new rules, religious organizations will face an impossible choice."

    It's actually a very easy choice. Stop controlling people's lives based on what you think is right because of an ancient book. It's just not a choice they want to make.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • gerald

      I am Catholic. The Church does not control my life. It guides it. It is only your prejudice that makes you think I am somehow forced to do what the Church wants. Bigotry loves ignorance.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • BRC

      I didn't say you allow it to control you, I said that they try.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      The government isn’t trying to control anyone’s life either. They are mandating that everyone be given the same rights and opportunities as others. Just because most catholics don’t follow their churches basic precepts doesn’t meant that they are going to be FORCED to use birth control. They do however have to give everyone a fair chance.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:55 pm |
    • Obvious Guy

      @ Gerald

      It's kinda sad you need an old book and a bunch of child loving pervs to tell you what to do, I mean "guide your life". You know what guides my life? Common sense, reason, trial and error, logic, and understanding, things Catholics don't believe in.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      "Bigotry loves ignorance."

      Says the sheep who relies on one of the most bigoted books in history to guide their life.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  19. Honey Badger Dont Care

    Sue all you want but the Consti tution is all about providing freedoms to all citizens, not taking them away like the church wants to do.


    May 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      Ahhhh! You beat me to it momoya. You're on top of things today I see.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  20. momoya


    RCC: We want to force laws on everyone else, not the other way around.. Why can't you understand that?

    May 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
    • gerald

      everybody wants laws according to their own thinking. There are no laws that you want to impose? Evidently you want a law imposed on the Catholic Church.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • kjrussell

      Actually, gerald, I want to see existing criminal law applied to te catholic church.
      Child mo!esters and those who cover thier crimes belong in prison.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.